The Truth Must Rise Again

Our urgent duty as Americans is to assure, from this point forward, that the truth, like the sun, rises each and every day.

Like many of my readers, I am in the last phase of my life.  And, like you, I do not know how long it will last. I have had great successes and great failures. I have laughed and I have cried.  My heart has been filled with joy and emptied by the pain of loss.  And like you, I have known—from a very young age—the difference between right and wrong; between truth and lies.

In moments of weakness, humans can lose their grip on reality; we can become susceptible to deceit—especially if in so doing it makes us feel strong again.  This is what Trump has done to millions of Americans; Americans who feel weakened by a world that is moving in directions that threaten their position in social, economic, and political order.  I have referred to this in other writings as the period of Great Dispossession.  Specifically, to white Christian nationalists who were easily captured by Trump’s rhetoric of reclaiming an American retrotopia perhaps best illustrated in the paintings of Norman Rockwell.

Pluralism—a fundamental tenet of Americanism—which was once a clarion call to the world to join us in the American experiment, was flipped from ideal to threat for those targeted by Trump.  Science and technology—that assured America’s place as a hegemonic superpower and literally extended our lives by decades—became a suspicious and dangerous regime deployed by highly educated elites.  Knowledge and reason, revered at our nation’s birth as a gift of the Age of Enlightenment, has been traded for beliefs corrupted by blind faith in purveyors of deceit—con men—operating at all levels of our society.  The Age of Deceit has reigned down upon us.

It was said by many, including president-elect Joe Biden, that the events of January 6th in our nation’s capital do not represent “who we are.”  I beg to differ.  Today, what has happened and may continue to happen, is exactly who we are.  It is ugly, embarrassing, and shameful, but we must each own our part—either through our active participation or our inactive complicity—if we are to have a chance of redemption and renewal.  We must own this truth.

Since as early as 2010, in this blog, I have warned about an emerging move toward the impulse of fascism in America.  I have warned about the degradation of the American values, writing most extensively about it in my 2020 book, Saving America in the Age of Deceit.  In public meetings in my own hometown, shortly after Trump’s election, I labeled him a wannabe fascist and further warned that the great irony of his presidency would be that while America has faced many existential threats throughout its history that today, as appalling as it was, that threat resided in the Oval Office. Many looked at me as if I were crazy, others just hoped I would be proven wrong.  I was neither.

We must, once again, see our country through clear eyes and full hearts. One of the great lessons of my life has been to work carefully and deliberately to always see things as they are as opposed as to how I might like them to be.  To be always and ever curious.  To question the givens. To learn even when it hurts.  As we age, we have a choice: do we become hardened in our thinking—intellectually sclerotic—or open to new knowledge and emerging realities? The first path leads to isolation and anger; the second path to fulfillment and transcendence.  The first life passes holding a bucket of resentment; the second swaddled by grace in a state of peace.  Which will you be?

Another tenet of Americanism is the prospect of second chances.  Who we are today, as painfully illustrated in our nation’s capital this week, does not have to be who we become.  Those with open and curious minds are always becoming.  Those with empathy lift others up to see the view they see: the promise on the horizon of hope where we must—immediately—allow truth to rise again.

By |2021-01-10T17:52:42+00:00January 10th, 2021|American Identity, Current, Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Spelunking the Soul

Last spring, my daughter who lives in New York City and had been hospitalized with dengue fever in January, suffered Covid-19 in March, and had her dreams of working on Broadway following her graduation from NYU in May evaporate in a raging pandemic, wanted my assurance that “normal” would return soon.  In a paternal headfake—the kind you use when you don’t have the answer—I suggested a “new normal” would prevail. “But what will ‘new normal’ be, Papa?,” she asked. (At 22 years of age she knows a headfake when she hears one.) “I just don’t know,” I said apologetically. “No one does,” I added, in an attempt to rescue my paternal authority from the embarrassment of my quotidian ignorance.

As the days of uncertainty turned to weeks then months, and my own wife of sixteen years abandoned our marriage to focus “on myself … to know myself better … and figuring out what I want for my life” in June, I have had plenty of time to plumb the depths of despair and interrogate the factors that landed me, my community, country, and all of humanity in the perilous place we find ourselves today. I dove (or was perhaps shoved) into the cavernous darkness of contemplation; in shorthand, spelunking the soul.

What I have learned thus far, with the help of my therapist, Rita Robinson, is that the pain, grief, and despair we endure from both personal and communal loss must not be wasted on fighting to get back to where we were—to the old normal. Rather, they must be embraced as gifts of deliverance. We must layer the pain, like the compressed slivered sheets that form plywood, into a pliable yet durable springboard to leap to a better place—a better and new normal.

We must first accept the unwelcome truth that the old normal got us into the mess we are in. Why would we pine for its return? Why would we want to reestablish the beliefs, practices, policies, and twisted norms that delivered so much misery? Why would we attempt reconciliation with the capricious?  We aren’t where we are entirely by chance; we have contributed mightily to our suffering. We need to own our complicity in the pain we endure while letting go of the factors that conspired against us.  Clinging to them for the comfort of the familiar might allow the snake to bite twice.

Our leaders lied to us while we knew better and remained silent. We watched as children were ripped from the arms of their parents and locked in cages and we just turned the channel, or swiped left. We lowered the window shades as our neighbor’s children went to bed hungry. We whined about our liberties lest the indignity of wearing a mask might stifle our freedom, and thousands died. We failed to ask the most fundamental question of all to those we care about: “Are you okay?” Our mouths were busy talking while our ears should have been busy listening. We hid in our social media silos for comfort to shield us from the indecency of our indifference. We wallowed in self-pity as we stroked and groomed our pathetic sense of entitlement.

Yup, we suck. However, we can stop sucking by caring again. By listening. By giving of ourselves. By holding each other to account. We can stand up for the truth and silence the parasites that have been draining the life out of our communities. We can respect the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone, not just those who look like us, think like us, or are our so-called friends in our social media cliques. We can sacrifice present comforts for bigger challenges like assuring our air is breathable, our water drinkable, and nature is revered again so that there is a future for all creatures that call earth home. We need to set aside having for being. Our next normal can be much better than the last.

The next few weeks will be some of the toughest ever faced in the history of the United States, but the elements of our redemption are within reach. Safe and effective vaccines. New national leadership. A staggered, humbled, but resolute people who are ready to do the work of renewal. Our losses must be the seeds of a new future—a new normal.  We will get out by getting through.

Someday we will be asked how we dealt with the calamity of 2020—easily one of the worst years in the history of America—similar to the questions we asked our parents and grandparents about the Great Depression. Now is the time to make certain your answer is one your children and grandchildren can brag about. That you took your blows, steeled your spine, renewed your sense of empathy, and made the sacrifices—did the hard work—to create a better future born from the lessons of loss.

Happy New Year. I hope.

By |2021-01-10T17:38:03+00:00December 28th, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

Into the Light

The curtain is falling on America’s long descent into the darkness of the Age of Deceit.

I suppose it is fitting that the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurs today on this winter’s solstice; the closest since the year 1226. A conjunction Christians believe formed the Christmas Star more than two millennia ago as they co-opted a pagan celebration as their own. Virtually every religion and culture across the world and across time have rituals and celebrations to herald our seasonal turn from darkness to light. The promise of rebirth this year has never been more welcome.

Our descent into the darkness of deceit began nearly twenty years ago with our leader’s lies about WMD and al-Qaeda in Iraq. We tolerated those deceits because we were angry and afraid. As truth became relative—in virtually all aspects of our society—other fundamental underpinnings of character also became vulnerable including humility, temperance, and especially our sense of compassion. We became righteous, arrogant, greedy, and frankly, a danger to ourselves.

Our descent reached terminal velocity with the election of Donald Trump. Deceit is disorienting and 2020 marked the zenith of our disconnection from reality and truth, quite literally resulting in the unnecessary death of hundreds of thousands of Americans. “Shame” and “pity” are words our allies use to describe America today. They are being kind.

The cost of all of this may never be summed, but suffice it to say we cannot afford to continue on our current path.

Some argue we will, indeed, continue on this path of descent—a trajectory akin to a downward spiral. Their predictions are plausible, but ahistorical. The path of humanity, including America, has never been linear. Randomness and chaos tend toward lurching to and fro like a poorly anchored pendulum always threatening to lose its grip on its axis. And, humans learn. We course-correct. We seek advantage through differentiation. It is more than likely we will now lurch back toward the light of truth. Under current circumstances, our very survival depends on this turn.

We must set judgment and condemnation aside. There is plenty of shame and blame for all of us to share, which is a completely useless endeavor. It is time for virtue to return to the altar of reverence. We must rebuild our character as individuals, communities, and a nation—one virtue at a time. It will be hard; painful. But the needle is pointing toward truth. It is that dim but stable light that beckons at the other end of the tunnel. The light that will draw us from despair, from fear, from loathing, from the threat of complete and utter destruction.

With truth comes the prospect of justice, accompanied by its loyal steward: love.

We can get there if we go together. We have lived the alternative for the last 20 years—to our great peril. Tomorrow is ours to seek. Our destiny is in our hands. The future of humankind hangs in the balance. This is no time for indifference. This is no time to bet on luck. It is time to reject deceit in all of its forms; to embrace the light of truth as our beacon of hope. It is time to clasp each other’s hands and climb. To breathe the air of clarity that awaits at the top of the mountain of virtue where our souls can soar again.

What a joy it would be to see you there. If you make it there before I do, please take my words with you, and enjoy the view.

Happy Solstice!

By |2020-12-28T17:07:38+00:00December 21st, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

Your Gift

Several years ago, when I was a volunteer helping really sick cancer kids at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, I wrote Your Gift as a holiday message to our group of volunteers and patient families who had gathered to remember those we had lost during the year.  As you might imagine, it was a time of remembrance, healing, and gratitude.  Since then, I have tweaked it and updated it and shared it with friends, family, and community.  Inevitably, and perhaps especially this year, I share it again by popular demand.  Share it with others, or just hold it as your own.

Your Gift

We arrive in this world by circumstance and spend much of our life trying to reconcile the gift. We endure our struggles and ascribe our lot with the certainty of burden. Between the jubilation, pain and occasional humility we scrape a path that is ours, alone. In the seam of these struggles, life offers brilliance; the warmth of late summer’s sun quenching our shoulders as we gaze across a horizon of promise; the magical touch of a child’s hand who clasps ours for comfort; the flash of a smile from a heart who loves ours, too. We are placed here by chance to express a life all our own. Tear away the wrapping, therein lies the gift.

Our choices are many…perhaps too many. We wring our hands over “pearlized ivory” or “satin cream;” over the eight-place setting or twelve. We pay others to tell us how to dress, behave and raise our children. We fear our judgment, lest we disappoint those we allow to judge us. Many of us are addled by success; frozen by a world we herald as great. Others grant short shrift to such contrivance and lean forward into tomorrow.

Every morning offers beauty. Every day arrives as a clean slate, if we look past the indelible erasures. When the sky is dark, the wind unyielding and the news dire, there is reason to smile. We each possess the promise of greatness; to thrust our spirit into the light where our gift can shine.  In the vastness of time and space we are but specs in the history of the universe, yet each of us possess this gift that is as beautiful as it is rare. The choice is ours, in this moment and every moment that follows. Look into the eyes that stare back at you in the mirror and embrace your gift. Draw those near who nourish your soul. Let others pass.

This season, take a morning walk in the silence of new-fallen snow; lift a child upon your knee and tell them a story about your grandfather; sit outside at night until the sky throws a star your way.

Listen.

Love.

Laugh.

May you be held in the warmth of the season and your spirit soar in the new year.

Lord knows, we need a new year.

By |2020-12-21T14:28:56+00:00December 18th, 2020|General|0 Comments

Let’s Give Each Other a Chance Again

It started as a fairly normal Saturday morning in southwestern Colorado, excepting the dull headache that persisted following too many hours of viewing election coverage for what seemed an eternity.  The headache quickly resolved with a stout cup of coffee born on the island of Sumatra—a steady morning companion.  There were chores to be done, which arrived with a sense of urgency to beat the arrival of a winter storm creeping toward the doorstep of the San Juan Mountains.  The storm warning suggested more feet than inches of snow accompanied by a fierce wind—the kind that would erase any of the last golden vestiges of autumn in favor of a white blanket of winter.

As I organized the trash and recyclables to arrive at the dump when the gates would swing clear to receive the castaway evidence of my solitary life, my Springer Spaniel, Stella, started her twirling dance by the door.  She loves to go to the dump; her enthusiasm, while odd by human standards, provides a welcome spirit to an otherwise pedestrian chore where the only human interaction is with a maskless transfer-station clerk who takes down license plate numbers and assesses fees with alacrity commensurate with the bounty her customers leave behind.  The rats that live beneath the industrial-size compactor are the only critters that wage a smile.  Yes, rats can smile.  (Google it—they smile with both their ears and lips; happy happens.)

Upon returning home and moving more firewood closer to the front door, I decided to flip on the TV and sink, once again, into my oversized leather chair where reading, viewing, and naps are common.  The scene that revealed across the glassy platter of Samsung digital clarity was stunning, even jarring.  People gathering in the streets of America—that much seemed normal following months of civil unrest.  But, this was strange.  Screaming, anger, and violence had been replaced by cheering, singing, and dancing.  I struggled to remember the last time I had seen joy, but my memory failed to comply. Tears gathered in the lower half of my eyes then, as suddenly as they arrived, they breached the dam of my eyelids and streamed down my face; an aging white man trying to reconcile the moment after living of the edge of dread for four years.

I wept for the prospect of normalcy.  I wept for the promise of hope.  I wept for the possibility that the America I was raised to love and protect might return.  I wept for the immigrant children who may now be reunited with their parents that had been exiled by an evil American regime.  I wept for those who lost their lives at the hands of an incompetent leader who cared more about his reelection than saving them from a deadly pandemic.  I wept for those who, because of the color of their skin, or unsettled legal status, or gender preference, or simple political persuasion, have lived in a state of fear moving from shadow to shadow lest the light of day place them in peril.  But I also wept for those who prefer red to blue—Trump to Biden—for they are victims too.  Dying from a poverty of dignity at the end of a gun, or a stomach full of opioids, bereft of hope and swindled by a man who promised them deliverance but never, ever, cared enough to save them.  And, I wept for those who sold their souls to grab what benefits they could—political or financial—from a man who was determined to destroy American values and institutions so that he might realize his fantasies of fascism.

The heart of America has many wounds.  To be clear, I am far from Pollyannaish.  It is highly uncertain if America will recover her promise, her hope, her power.  The American Dream may be lost forever.  Our greatest days may only be experienced by reading our history, rather than living our future.  However, I heard president-elect Biden’s plea, that we “give each other a chance.”  After all, chances—first, second, and more—course through the veins of the American spirit.  It is within our power to choose, and each and every one of us has the responsibility in every new morning that arrives, to decide whether we want to save our heritage from the travesty of the Age of Deceit—punctuated in finality by the Trump administration—or meander toward mediocrity, or worse.  In November 1863, with the Union teetering on collapse, Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—the same commonwealth that delivered victory to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—and argued for a “new birth of freedom.”  Today, we must again set aside fear for hope, hate for love, dread for grace.  We must give each other a chance again.

By |2020-12-03T14:33:05+00:00November 8th, 2020|Donald Trump, General, Recent|0 Comments

Tomorrow is Almost Here

To summon W.B. Yeats, we deserved the “rough beast, its hour come ‘round at last” that slithered into Washington decimating democratic institutions at home and American credibility throughout the world.  Trump simply poured gasoline on the fire we had already started to destroy traditional American values after the end of the Cold War, then capped the ash heap with a dumpster-load of diabolical cruelty and stupefying incompetence.  He has been a wake-up call we will forever condemn, and yet, tragically deserved.

For those of you wringing your hands over the results we are about to witness, continue wringing them.  But, not for the actual votes cast—Biden will win that battle—rather, for the nefarious acts currently underway by the Trump campaign and our illegitimate Justice Department that are contriving incidents and arguments for our now-illegitimate Supreme Court to assure power remains in Trumplican hands.  Chief Justice Roberts alone may not be able to save the Court.  For this moment in American history, all three branches of our government are controlled by a minority that will do anything—regardless of laws or norms—to keep their boots on the necks of the majority.  Bush v. Gore may prove a quaint predictor of what unfolds next.  The Founders provided us with institutions (like the senate and electoral college) to keep the majority in check, but those structures have been inverted to paradoxically achieve the opposite: empowering and protecting minority rule.

With all three branches of our government compromised, preventing a stolen election largely depends on turnout.  “2BIG2RIG” is the formula for excising the festering tumor of Trumplican deceits that have placed our republic in peril.  As in 2016, the polls will be wrong.  Pollsters have a very difficult time predicting results unless turnout mirrors historical voting patterns.  In 2016, they undervalued non-college educated white rural voters that rendered their predictions agonizingly wrong.  In 2020, the extraordinary levels of voter turnout and, most especially, the surge in young voters and returning voters of color strongly suggest that the historic patterns that guide polling and modeling have been shattered.

My mother, who wore her index finger raw on a rotary phone in the 1960s to 80s to cajole people into voting, would be proud of the 2020 turnout, which is already historic.  This time, I expect it will be the Trumplicans grieving about how wrong the polls were; the results will reflect the power of those that pollsters failed to consider, or properly value.  Those who prefer blue to red.  And, while foreign hacking of the vote tally is also a concern, and is certainly being aided by the Trump administration, again, 2BIG2RIG should substantially dilute these effects as well.

Of course, with a nation awash in guns and hatred, there will be blood.  People in Kansas have already been shooting each other over yard signs.  Hopefully, incidents of ignorance and violence will remain isolated and contained.  Depending on where you live, have a plan to hide until cooler heads prevail.  Innocents are a bully’s first target.  And, a wild-eyed steroidal idiot with an assault rifle may be itching to make his video-game fantasies come true.

When all votes have been counted, and relative calm returns, Obama’s “Hope and Change,” updated by Biden as “Build Back Better,” will return to our doorstep with Joe as its shepherd. Answer the door when you hear the bell.  Take a deep breath.  Take a nap.  Hug yourself.  Then, commit yourself anew; prepare to do the crucial work to save our future.

The new work—saving our future—must be founded in humility and purpose.  Revenge is satisfying, but only for a moment.  Evening the score will compromise unification that is so urgently needed to deal with issues like Covid-19 and climate change.  Vice must be set aside in favor of virtue.   Healing our scarred souls and embracing unity as our highest aim—e pluribus unum—must become, once again, our north star.  Us vs. Them and Win-Lose scenarios have no place in our collective pursuit of redemption.  Hate must be put asunder.  America’s restoration lies in empowering others rather than coercive schemes of dominance.

We must shine the mighty light of the good to disinfect the bad.  We must look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren and assure them, with sincerity equal to their innocence, that we’ve got this; that their lives will be as safe and prosperous as ours have been.  We must hand them a torch worth carrying forth.  Reason and science and humanism must return to the alter of American discourse.  We have saved America from its enemies in the past, now we must save it from ourselves.  We can do this.  After all, we are (still) Americans.

 

By |2020-11-08T16:21:35+00:00November 2nd, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

A Time to Dream Again

Let’s finish the fight. Let’s reclaim our heritage and fix our future.  Let’s set our eyes on the next America.

As I watched the empty, fragile, flaccid, and Covid-infected man that is our 45th president attempt to bully his way past Joe Biden in the debate, then rescue his deluded self-conception as a modern-day Mussolini saluting Marine One (or the lawn?) from the south portico of the White House, I felt the week’s images captured perfectly and poignantly the state of our country.  In a word: pathetic.  An empire rotting from the center of its power—the White House.

How far we have fallen in just four years.  I have studied leadership, taught it, written about it, and advised and led a number of companies. More books have been written about Lincoln than any other president—for his character and leadership. The same will occur for Trump—for his cruelty and failures.  Trump’s presidency will, for many years to come, provide a vast array of abject lessons of failed leadership.  Just when you think he couldn’t screw things up any worse, he consistently surprises us—to the downside.  Clearly, the only thing that has sharpened his mind in the last several weeks is the prospect of jail time.  Unfortunately, this acuity has set him on a more aggressive course of destroying America.

Like many of you, I have been down all the rabbit holes to examine what happens with a contested election (which Bill Barr is pursuing aggressively as I write).  It is ugly, to say the least.  In the wildest paranoid nightmares of our founders, none of them imagined a president could be this horrific.  And while it is possible Trump and Barr will be able to prolong their defeat, I have confidence our collective outrage will produce the landslide we need to bury the Trump administration and its many enablers under an impenetrable pile of rubble.  On January 20, 2021, the next America will begin.

For decades upon decades, Americans have met crisis after crisis and have succeeded in lurching, chaotically forward, to a more perfect union.  We will never achieve perfection; that much is certain.  But the promise of a better future always resides in the striving.  Is it really worse today than when Washington and his too-few troops froze their asses off to cross the Delaware River to confront Hessian forces, who were sure to kill them and crush the revolution?  Or, when Lincoln—addled by depression—quickly pivoted to fund the construction of the transcontinental railroad to the west fearing the South and the Union were lost?  Or, when the country had more soup lines and Hoovervilles than McDonalds and McMansions, and Hitler’s reign of unspeakable horrors descended upon the world?

It always seems worse in the present—as if we are special in our suffering—but is it? The simple truth is this: chaos, corruption, and dishonesty—the touchstones of Donald Trump—were never sustainable.  Nightmares end. He is a monstrous stain on the presidency of the United States, but we are on the brink of expelling him and his sycophants forever.  (Stay well Joe and Kamala.)

We have choices and our time for choosing is approaching.  We will, as we have near the end of each American crisis, emerge with a new answer to the question: What does it mean to be an American?  As Trump trades in his extra-extra-long belly-concealing ties for prison stripes, so too will his toxic conception of “America First” loose its gold-flake luster like a diploma from Trump University.  As with everything he touches or conceives, the substance is little more than bad hair glued to an empty orb.  Bowling balls have more character and competence. At least they know where they are going.  So, what will our answer be?  What will our next identity be?

No longer superpower, at least not in the tradition defined in terms of the Cold War.  Nor do I believe it will be what Obama was pursuing: global stewardship.  “Global” is a bit ambitious given the state of our current union that still has immigrant children locked in cages, supremacists masquerading as law enforcement, and the worst response to Covid-19 anywhere in the world.  Still, we can aspire to something greater even as we clean up Trump’s tempest of terror.  It is time to lift our eyes and assert our will. I propose enlightenment and exceptionalism.

Enlightened exceptionalists (EEs) are more inclined toward reason than faith; toward knowledge rather than beliefs. They borrow the case for reason, science, humanism, and progress from the Age of Enlightenment that preceded the founding of the United States and proceed with a temperament of exceptionalism that holds integrity and virtue as paramount standards of behavior.

For EEs, the Age of Deceit that spanned from the War in Iraq through Trump must be put asunder.  As Americans, EEs believe it is our duty to lead the world through its most difficult challenges, starting with climate change that although a technological challenge, is an even greater economic and political challenge.  The world expects America to lead, and addressing climate change for the benefit of all the world is a fast-track back to American credibility.

For EEs, the American Probity Values of responsible individualism, exemplar exceptionalism, and perfectibility—leaving things better than we found them— must again be the defining standards of Americanism. EEs do not see races, religions, ethnicities or nationalities; they see humans who each are deserving of dignity and respect.  They understand that the lessons of failure pave the way toward success at home and abroad and that America’s greatest strength lies in the unification of a diverse peoples who each have the capacity to make meaningful contributions to the future of  humankind.

EEs believe that E Pluribus Unum—”Out of Many, One”—must once again supplant “In God We Trust” as America’s clarion call of the nation.  They believe in referent power—the kind granted through service rather than imposed through coercion. EEs seek to build bridges rather than walls, but also believe that while at times people must migrate to escape peril, the greatest successes are achieved when people thrive within their own homeland and particular cultures and, moreover, that the burden of climate, economic, and personal insecurities must be addressed within the ethos of reciprocation: wanting for others what we want for ourselves.

EEs believe that while capitalism has proven to be the greatest model of wealth creation ever conceived in history, its endgame that produces high concentrations of wealth have the potential to weaken democracies and liberal institutions allowing the rise of plutocracies and other authoritarian regimes that may, in the end, create widespread conflict placing fundamental human rights and welfare in great jeopardy.  Preserving the benefits of capitalism while affecting the security of democracies and human rights from concentrated wealth is second only to climate change on the EEs list of most pressing issues.

EEs have little interest in having a high profile or participating in social media; they prefer anonymity to celebrity. They are truth-seekers and problem solvers.  They have a plus-sum, win-win mentality.  Finally, EEs are committed to the long-game; short-term gains are always welcome as long as they provide the building blocks to long-term gains creating strategic victories that address a myriad of issues and objectives.  Big problems like climate change and the concentration of wealth are, by definition, big, because they subsume so many other smaller problems and issues.  This is an example of enlightened exceptionalism: embracing empiricism and reason to guide the application of resources toward their highest and best use for the benefit of the many—perhaps all of humankind.  EEs occupy the transcendent center of the American political spectrum; politically engaged but staunchly non-partisan.

Whatever your concept of the next America, this much is clear: your participation is your passport to a better tomorrow.  As Wallace Stegner argued, “culture is like a pyramid to which each of us brings a stone.” Go get your stone.  Our time is nigh.  It is time to dream again.

By |2020-11-02T14:16:20+00:00October 10th, 2020|American Identity, General|0 Comments

Dropping In

There is a euphoric sense of freedom the moment a skier, standing on the precipice of a mountain, leans the tips of his skis ever so slightly downward to initiate descent, allowing both body and spirit to embrace gravity’s deliverance from stasis. The movements that follow—the intentional and gentle shifting weight and balance ballet that ensues—produces a harmonic flow of splendor that feels as if you are seamlessly connected to both heaven and earth; as if your skis have become wings. These moments of connectivity with nature offer the magnificence of pure bliss.

Today, the bliss of dropping in is just a cherished memory. Today, the precipice seems more like a ledge with nothing but the peril of loss waiting below. And yet, drop in we must. Yes, there may be pain and loss and plenty of stress, but remaining on the ledge addled by rumination is no way to live.  As my friend, Roger Cohen, of The New York Times argued, “there is no way out but through.”

Getting “through” requires a full heart and a clear mind, but we humans have a spectacular capacity to compromise both. We prefer the comfort of ignorance to the challenge of truth.  We crave delusional affirmation when what we need is the clarity of reckoning. We stubbornly remain fixed on chosen pathways even while the stress of mounting anxiety is itself screaming in our ear: Hello! Change course! You are headed off a cliff!  Psychosis wraps its tentacles around our ankles as we wonder why our gait becomes staggered. The result is a malaise of disorientation—born of magical thinking—that leaves us whipsawed between exuberance and depression.

In the coming weeks, now that the campaign starting gun of Labor Day has passed, we will be subject to a barrage of deceits and distractions aimed at keeping the pot of disorientation at a roiling boil. Some of us will be tempted to reach up for the ledge to scramble back to safety. Others will bury their heads in the sand.  However, this is not the time for retreat or apathy.  If we want to get back on the precipice, aiming our skis toward bliss, we must defeat those intent on crushing the soul of this country. We must fight for truth and honor and dignity. As Abraham Lincoln implored, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

More than any time in history, your vote and the votes of your friends and family must be cast, regardless of the many efforts made to confuse you and deter you from doing so. You are not being asked to put your life at risk, as prior generations were. Do your civic duty. Just vote, damn it, VOTE.

By |2020-10-10T19:11:23+00:00September 8th, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

The Great Suffering

For the Irish, life is suffering and suffering is life.

In times like these, I am pleased to be blessed with Irish blood that carries antibodies to suffering.  Those of you who know me personally—beyond the words I post here—know that 2020 has been an emotional challenge for me (to say the least).  The trending Twitter hashtag, #IHATE2020 barely begins to address my sentiment.  “Make it stop!” has been my go-to plea as night-terrors penetrate the vulnerability of darkness.  Yet, I know I have it so much better than others who are enduring not just emotional torment, but also suffer physical and financial peril.   Alas, as the Irish proverb goes, “Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright—it’s not the end.”  Sadly, I expect I and we are some distance from the end.  But, there is a way out.

This period of crisis in American history seems to throw us one hand grenade after another.  9/11, the War on Terror, and the Great Recession were plenty.  Unfortunately, we largely met these challenges with deceit and greed, which is probably why we were granted an extra dose of pain.  The current period of Great Suffering that followed, escorted and twisted and amplified by Donald Trump, should provide the requisite shock to force us to reckon with the gradual but certain degradation of American values that took nearly four decades to roost. In 2020, roost turned to ravage.

All of the world’s great religions hold that we should treat each other as we wish to be treated ourselves—the so-called Golden Rule.  However, there is another common tenet of world religions that is equally relevant today: we must fall in order to rise.  As the Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, argued in Falling Upward, “falling, losing, failing, transgression, and sin” are prerequisites to rebirth—to ascension from despair.  In Christian theology, there can be no resurrection until after crucifixion.  He notes that Buddhism observes this phenomenon perhaps more clearly than Christianity when he wrote, “suffering does not solve any problem mechanically as much as it reveals the constant problem that we are to ourselves, and opens up new spaces within us for learning and loving.”  So, may we please let the learning and loving begin?  Please?!

There are many—too many—days I feel helpless to arrest the descent of America into a swirling cauldron of darkness.  I know many of you feel the same.  However, the marathon of malicious narcissism we have endured over the last four years can be over soon, if we do the work of redemption.  The citizens of what once was the greatest country in the world must rise up by rejecting the sinister policies of our president who seeks to destroy our spirit and unity in favor of stroking his fragile ego and lining his family’s pockets with wealth and power.  Enough is enough.

The way out is this: we must share in each other’s suffering if we have any hope of uniting and expelling the evil that is Donald Trump.  We must accept—even embrace—the suffering of victims of violence, of Covid-19, of economic and social injustice.  Their suffering must become ours if we are to rise.  Burdens must be shared to be overcome.  I have become convinced this is the only way forward to unite our country and achieve redemption and renewal.  We must not just stand up for ourselves, we must stand together by injecting compassion and responsibility back into individualism.  Only then will the powers aligned against us—from within our country—be vanquished.

Oh, and vote, damn it, VOTE!

By |2020-09-08T15:04:19+00:00September 1st, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Darkest Before the Dawn

In the midst of the grip of the dog days of summer, it seems odd to write about darkness, but the news of the day provides little, if any, rays of light.  Even in the West, what sun there is has become shrouded by a season of smoke from raging wildfires—a climate-change reality that has become an unsolicited summer norm.

Mid-August 2020 may be remembered as the moment we began our descent into a seemingly bottomless inkwell of darkness.  Between a botched Covid-19 response, rampant civil and economic injustice, violence, suicide, and murder escalating across the country at astounding rates, a climate that threatens to consume us, and national leadership drowning in its selfishness and incompetence, it feels like layer upon layer of tribulation may suffocate any light of hope to rescue us from overwhelming uncertainty and peril.  Heading into a hidey-hole like a stunned groundhog in February sounds nearly inviting.  Or, as Michelle Obama suggested, when they go low, just stay high, America!  (I may not have gotten that exactly right.)

And yet, as the English theologian, Thomas Fuller, suggested in 1650, “it is always darkest just before the day dawneth.”  The proverbial sun will rise again.  I promise.

We must also remember that America has been here before.  Not exactly here of course, but in similar dire straits.  That edge of fire that breaks the horizon that expands to overtake darkness will, eventually, lead us out of our current crisis.

After the improvident period of idealism that granted easement to the charlatans and grifters of the middle 19th century, we endured a Civil War that nearly ended the American experiment of a democratic republic.  Yes, it could have ended America, but it didn’t.  We went on to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and create the land of opportunity that doubled our population due to a mass influx of immigrants that quite literally filled America with life and hope.

Following the avarice of the next period of idealism—the Roaring Twenties—that ended with a stock market crash that launched the Great Depression and allowed fascism and evil to sweep Europe and much of Asia during World War II, America once again found the light of hope to ascend on the world stage, this time as a superpower.

The current crisis—the Age of Deceit—marked by the War on Terror, the Great Recession, a 100-year pandemic and a president who is, himself, the existential threat to the republic, was born from the third period of idealism (1980 – 2003) where, once again, affluence twisted our collective character into a braided whip of narcissism, entitlement, and hubris.  A whip we have turned against ourselves with remarkable vehemence.  As with all crises in our history, this one is self-inflicted.  Which also means—through humility and will power—we can transcend it.

We are nearing the end of the current crisis.  How do I know? Because it is time.  American crises (and this is our fourth) last 15 to 20 years.  We are in year 17 of the Age of Deceit.  I expect 2021 will be a race toward renewal; that is, if we are successful in, among other things, affecting a wholesale cleanout of our national leadership.  We need a Washington, Grant, or Eisenhower to deliver us from crisis.  What follows next, if American history rhymes, is a period of objectivism to succeed crisis, which are historically marked by realism, rationalism, and humanism. And, for Baby Boomers, maybe even one last shot at tranquility before we leave America for good.

Last week, David Brooks of The New York Times provided an (unwitting) endorsement of the coming shift toward objectivism when he wrote,

Radicals are good at opening our eyes to social problems and expanding the realm of what’s sayable.  But if you look at who actually leads change over the course of American history, it’s not the radicals. At a certain point, radicals give way to the more prudent and moderate wings of their coalitions.

He closed by invoking one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the modern era, Isaiah Berlin, who laid claim to the light that exists in that seam of possibility that occupies the “extreme right-wing edge of the left-wing movement.”  Where the surety of objectivism lives.

The next few months will be rough.  At times, it will seem as if the light will never come to erase the darkness of despair and loss.  But, come it will.  Many will fight mightily to herald a new dawn.  To them, we will owe a deep debt of gratitude in much the same way we owe those who delivered us from the tyranny of King George III, defeated the treasonous Confederate army in the Civil War, and vanquished fascism in the 1940s.

For the rest of us, we have (at least) one solemn duty: vote, damn it, VOTE!

By |2020-09-01T15:22:52+00:00August 18th, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments
Go to Top